I LOVE TO GO BACK TO RUSSIA as a tourist for a month or two. This time I have the luck to accompany some students in the Studies Abroad Program to the country that I still call mine.
St. Petersburg, May 5th. In the international airport I have a warm feeling of coming home. It looks almost like Charleston airport. The grounds next to the airport used to be green. Now there are malls. Chilly air. Dark trunks of trees in the fresh, green mist. Excavated brown soil around a newly built highway and viaduct.
When we get out of the car next to a 9-floor apartment house, my 5-year-old daughter asks on which floor is the bedroom of her cousin. This little American child will very fast get used to sharing a bedroom with her cousin and her aunt; a room which during the day serves as a computer and TV room.
The next morning we take a metro to go to downtown. St. Petersburg metro is the deepest and one of the most beautiful in the world. Some stations are over 100 yards below the ground. Once I saw an old man crossing himself before stepping onto the escalator leading into the deep hole, saying: “God speed! I am going under the ground.” Today I see middle-age people in the metro with grayish-greenish faces—after almost no sun all winter—staring into their newspapers, books, or at some invisible point in front of them. Next to them, college girls, with their bronze tans from the tanning salon, are chatting like birds.
Finally, we are on Nevsky Prospect—the long and wide main boulevard of St. Petersburg, with its four lanes bordered by noble facades of old palaces, theaters, and stores. We go to the Russian Museum which was the first state museum of Russian fine arts in the country, established in 1895 under the decree of Emperor Nicholas II (the last Russian tsar). There is an exhibition of Russian-American emigrant painters, but we head to the main halls. After a couple of hours, overwhelmed by the richness of the splendid art, we try to go for a stroll, but it is so cold and starts to rain.
We make a circle around the gorgeous fairytale-like cathedral, the Church of the Savior on Blood, and come to a café named the Coffee House which, as a sign of the times, has its English name written phonetically in Cyrillic.
We have a delicious cup of tea and cake. The prices in St. Petersburg are about the same as in the USA. Only the bread and milk products still cost three time less. For 3 days I will be a tourist and my own tour guide. Then it will be time to take the 5-hour train to Moscow where I will meet with my group of students from the College of Charleston. ~ ~
Tags: St. Petersburg Russia